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Dragon Quest Heroes comes to PS4 on Oct. 13 in North America

Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Square Enix will release Dragon Quest Heroes: The World Tree's Woe and the Blight Below for PlayStation 4 on Oct. 13 in North America, the publisher confirmed today.

The action role-playing game from developer Omega Force brings together heroes from nearly 30 years of Dragon Quest games for an all-new adventure that's steeped in fan service.

Like last year's Hyrule Warriors, which was based on Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda series, Dragon Quest Heroes blends the hack-and-slash action of the long-running Dynasty Warriors series with the characters, monsters and environments of another iconic video game franchise. Players can take control of well-known Dragon Quest characters and play as two new heroes, Luceus and Aurora, as they battle huge armies of enemies: slimes, ghosts, golems, skeletons, et al.

During a recent hands-on demonstration with Dragon Quest Heroes, we embarked on two expeditions. In the first, we took a team of four heroes — Luceus and Aurora paired with Alena and Kiryl from Dragon Quest 4 — and were tasked with clearing a field infested with dozens of familiar Dragon Quest monsters, each handsomely rendered on PlayStation 4 hardware. While you embark on adventures as a quartet, you're only controlling one character at a time; players can switch between those characters on the fly, unleashing their unique attacks and managing their health and mana.

That was the easy quest, and none of the low-level common enemies presented much of a challenge. The second mission, in which we were challenged to take down a Gigantes — a powerful, towering cyclops — was noticeably more difficult.

Dragon Quest Heroes

In the battle against the Gigantes, we controlled Dragon Quest 8's Jessica and Yangus, as well as Luceus and Aurora. Our primary target felt like an endless well of hit points. No matter how much damage we did while bashing, whipping and stabbing the Gigantes' feet, it was but a dent to its overall health. Fortunately, a series of cannons emplaced upon city rooftops — pretty much eye level for the Gigantes — provided more firepower. The strategy, as best as we could tell, was to fire cannon shot at the big boss, then chip away with melee combat and spells while those cannons were slowly reloaded.

We had limited time and failed to fell Gigantes. He still had about half of his hit points at the end of our attempt, though Square Enix reps said he could be beaten with the right combination of spells, physical attacks and timing. Without learning each character's strengths and suite of magical abilities, and how they complement each other, expect to fail.

Players will be able to upgrade the abilities of the game's playable cast, and eventually add monsters as allies, aspects of gameplay that will surely make those tougher battles more manageable.

The hack-and-slash action of Dragon Quest Heroes will feel straightforward and familiar to anyone who's touched an Omega Force game. The whole affair feels simple on the surface, and often a bit stiff; combat doesn't flow as much as it feels like a series of discrete animations that play out with staccato button presses. Perhaps when we spend more time learning the rhythms of Dragon Quest Heroes' combat, we'll find our groove.

But I'm already on board, thanks to my nostalgia for all things Dragon Quest. And that's really the point of this whole endeavor (and probably why we're getting Dragon Quest Heroes 2 so soon).

Dragon Quest Heroes 2014: TGS 2014 demo

The next level of puzzles.

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